Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Looking Forward to School

Oh to be in elementary school. As the parent of two second grade daughters, I get daily reminders of how much kids enjoy going to school. Just the other day one of the twins shared how she was looking forward to school because it was pottery day. She was actually worried that it might snow and would have to wait another week to be in pottery class. Her emotions were so genuine that it was hard no to feel for her if school was called because of inclement weather.

My daughter’s comment reminded me of a graduate school class I was in. The instructor was a former superintendent of schools. In the midst of a discussion, this former superintendent shared an observation. He claimed that there was a noticeable difference in the level of excitement and enthusiasm between elementary schools and high school. He commented on how elementary school kids sprinted off the bus in the morning wanting to get to school as fast as possible and that elementary students would greet him with a smile and warm hello. This was contrasted by high school students that apathetically lumbered into school. He asked why is this the case and what happens between elementary and high school to alter a love of school.

I understand that there are stark differences between the pressure and stress levels associated with a high school. I also understand that expecting anyone to skip off the bus at 7:20am is bit much. However, I wonder how my daughter’s love of pottery translates as she moves from elementary to middle to high school? Both of my second graders show an interest in the arts. They love to draw and paint. They, along with their four year old sister, will grab my iPad and spend time sketching on Doodle Buddy. One of the twins is passionate about shooting video and taking pictures. For her last birthday she received a camera. She often takes her camera along on family outings or can be found snapping picture of our dog.

The question to consider is how or even if schools are structured to nurture these interests? I could see that under a more traditional system that the appreciation for school my daughters currently exhibit could dissipate as their “unique” interests become marginalized under core curricular requirements.

Hopefully, school will be a place to nurture and privilege interests that develop when kids are commencing the K-12 journey. I believe the excitement exhibited by my kids over pottery, art, science and history stems from the positive feelings derived from learning something new. This is what school is about- the chance to learn something new, expand one’s horizons and be introduced to new ideas and perspectives. Above all, school should be a place where a student can follow their passions and interests.

For my kids sake I look to a future in which my daughter’s love of pottery or photography has a prominent place in our schools.

*Image- nydailynews.com